Show must go on. This too shall pass. Someone has to be in charge of optimism here! Fashion has always functioned as a litmus test for global social trends. Are the hems going up or down, the belts loosening or tightening, how broad are the shoulders for the current weight of the world? After months of coronavirus lockdowns, the importance of living in the present got us power dressing from the waist up and easing into comfort fabrics 24/7. The future is unpredictable and the bridges to “the way things were” have burned. The current retail crisis has brought a more in-depth understanding on how loudly the fashion system is pleading for a dramatic change. We are increasingly aware of the need to minimize waste, provide fair employment opportunities with livable wages, and prioritize sustainability across the entire design process. Fashion weeks are digitizing their platforms and fashion schools are reinventing the how-to for future generations. Ethical fashion revolution will be livestreamed! For example, the second edition of Global Talents Digital was virtually attended by over seven million visitors. It speaks to the growing interest in fashion alternatives. Powered by the Russian Fashion Council and Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week Russia, the event featured 101 designers from 34 countries. From sourcing materials to textile experimentation to indigenous craftsmanship and upcycling design principles, this cohort of visionaries was full of practical ideas redefining, if not disrupting, what fashion was and what it must become in order to survive as an industry in a post-pandemic world. Here are eleven names worth noting with eye towards the unknown yet hopeful future.

Paula Ulargui Escalona @ulargui_escalona (Spain)

Sustainable Fashion Investigator. That’s the term the designer prefers for their provocative work. Believing that humankind may atone for the damage inflicted on the planet, the project is a call to commit to co-existing with nature. Her collection “Naturaleza Simbiotica” incorporates seeds, plants, biomaterials, and living organisms into the garments, blending clothes, bodies, and nature with a willingness to lead the path to a more conscientious fashion landscape, literally. 

Bola Yahala @bolayahaya_ng (Nigeria)

Self-taught designer Yahaya Taofeeq is interested in sharing their “autobiographical fashion narrative” with the world. Switching historical and cultural lenses on the idea of a female form, the brand reinterprets rich Nigerian style heritage in beautiful zero-waste garments through innovative pattern cutting/draping, recycling, and upcycling. Vibrant colors give life to a unique fashion vision coming from the fashion’s most exciting continent in terms of talent pool and consumer enthusiasm. 

Fanfare Label @fanfarelabel (UK) 

“The clothing is our identity, our expression, a truth,” says Esther Knight, founder of the British brand creating modern conscious clothing. Eco-dyed, certified plant-based and made in UK, the “Fabric for Freedom” principle empowers the team to work with human trafficking charities to eradicate slavery from the fashion industry supply chains. Social distancing is not an excuse to erase street style; on the contrary, it is an opportunity to dress with utmost individuality. Fanfare reminds us to take this opportunity for real transformation.

Atumatu @atumatu.lab (Russia)

Being unapologetically free is a way of appreciating natural beauty. This brand is created by women for women. Their underwear and swimming suits use econyl fibers made from regenerated nylon waste and disused industrial fishing nets. Each day empowers women to be comfortable in their skin (sizes from XS to 3XL always in stock) while supporting proactive zero-waste goals and looking stylish in minimalistic, extremely functional and comfortable undergarments. Their customers are also their collection and campaign muses and models

VALENTINS @valentins_studio  (Israel)

“Conscious people wear pixels!” Whatever that means, it sounds about right nowadays. In designer Valentin Karabanov’s mind, we shouldn’t take any traditional fashion process for granted: design, manufacturing, consumption. The tongue-in-cheek-ness of his approach is refreshing: “The raw digital materials for this outfit were carefully collected in Naples area, stored for a year in a cloud, blended with passion and produced with love in Tel Aviv.” His atelier offers 3D fashion education.

UNHUEMAN @unhueman_ (USA)

It’s no secret that ultra-realistic virtual models have given style representation a new twist. Virtual designer Bella Unhueman expands our imagination further in this fully digitalized fashion capsule collection. Futuristic Japanese samurai heritage is mixed with Internet iconography in bold prints and interplay of monochrome and neon colors. The intricacy of textures and silhouettes has earned this all-virtual brand praise from fashion media as far afield as California and Vietnam. Go global!

Angela Reyna @angelareynamx (Mexico)

Cosmic couture vibes with oversized silhouettes break style boundaries: a modern, daring, and deconstructive aesthetic working towards being a seasonless slow fashion brand. Vegan leather and organic fabrics bring to life creative eighties concepts responding to women’s everyday clothing needs. Reyna is committed to the #WhoMadeMyClothes principles of transparency and fairness. FYI, the iconic fashion muse Rossy de Palma is an insta-fan!

ARTO @wearearto (Peru)

“Nearly a paradox, nearly a remix”. Lady Ann Pachas Tito conducts her eco-dynamic style interventions on upcycled high-end streetwear pieces sourced and repurposed in Lima. Peruvian capital is known for its rich pre-Colombian and post-modern subcultural mix. Fashion lives by the myth of distinctiveness and this brand gives discarded or overlooked garments and textiles a second chance at a distinct and celebrated identity.

Lila Ziyagil & Bensu Gök @lilaziyagil (Turkey)

Turkey’s first digital influencer Lila Ziyagil teamed up with designer Bensu Gök for a collection provocatively titled NEON WASTE. Are physical realities no longer the future of fashion? Can virtual presentations replace the poetic vibe of real-life in-person runway shows? From the digital shores of ancient Istanbul, a boldly choreographed catwalk with vibrant extravagant prints and a technology-centered approach was thrilling. Total look is now being upgraded into a total mood!

N&S GAIA By Sidharth Sinha @nsgaia (India)

“N stands for Nature, S is Sustainability and GAIA symbolizes Mother Earth.” No wonder designer Sidharth Sinha was invited to deliver a TEDx Talk at St. Andrew’s University on building bridges between fashion practices of the past and the future. Culture drives fashion choices to meet sustainable goals. One on hand, the brand incorporates the highly-valued traditional Dakmanda weave of the Garo Tribe from North East India. On the other, it upcycles industrial textile waste. These unique garments develop distinct character as they engage the wearer’s body over time. 

Hemplove @hemploveza (South Africa)

This female-owned hemp lifestyle brand is proudly South African in its business savvy and design ethos. Garments made from hemp stand out for their matte colors derived from avocado seeds, turmeric, pomegranate skins, and fynbos thanks to an in-house process that uses plant waste and cut-offs to achieve the zero-waste goals. Environmentally conscious fashion movement is thriving on the continent and Hemplove is one of its most romantic ambassadors.